Anirban Lahiri of India sealed his major debut by winning the Asian edition of International Final Qualifying. Also earning spots were Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, Kodai Ichihara of Japan and Mardan Mamat of Singapore.
CHONBURI, Thailand -- India’s Anirban Lahiri earned his major debut at the 2012 Open Championship on March 2 after shooting a final round 5-under-par 67 to win the Asian edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ).
Lahiri, winner of the Asian Tour’s SAIL-SBI Open in India last week, will be joined at Royal Lytham & St. Annes this July by Prayad Marksaeng, who shot Friday’s best round of 64, Kodai Ichihara of Japan and Mardan Mamat of Singapore. Mamat sealed the fourth and final spot by winning a three-way playoff against compatriot Lam Chih-Bing and Jonathan Moore of the United States.
Play was suspended for more than two and a half hours due to lightning threats with the final two groups still to finish the two-day, 36-hole event at Amata Spring Country Club.
Amongst them was two-time Asian Amateur Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama. The 20-year-old, who became the first Asian winner of the Silver Cup for low amateur at last year’s Masters Tournament, looked certain to qualify after shooting a 6-under-par 30 over the first nine holes. However, the Japanese student came unstuck with a double bogey at 16, a bogey at the 17th and a triple bogey at the 18th to finish 10th.
Lahiri shot 35 over the first nine holes before a back nine that included an eagle-3 on the 15th hole when his 5-wood approach shot landed three feet from the hole.
“It has been a childhood dream of mine. This is the third IFQ I have come for and the last couple of times I played pretty poorly. It is really nice that I have made it,” said Lahiri, who posted a 9-under-par 135 total.
The young Indian was delighted to add a major appearance to his fledgling career, which aleady includes two Asian Tour titles.
“This is something every player looks forward to. I’m glad we have this opportunity on the Asian Tour,” he said. “The fact that I have come here and won it is very special to me and I hope that I can make it a memorable one at the Open.”
Marksaeng, a six-time Asian Tour winner, bounced back from an opening 73 courtesy of a new driver and some good putting, including a 50-foot birdie putt from the edge of the eighth green. He will be making his fifth appearance in the Open.
“I was very lucky today because I sank all my long putts. Everything just clicked for me from my driving to my putting. It was just one of those good days. It feels great to qualify for The Open again and this time, I’ll be aiming to make the cut for the first time in my career,” said Marksaeng, who shot a flawless round highlighted by six straight birdies from the sixth hole.
Ichihara, who missed out on a fourth and final ticket to the Open by one shot last year, battled into third place with a flawless 69.
“I feel excellent. I didn’t think about last year at all. I came here with a lot of positives and I’m glad I finally made it through. I feel great and I can’t wait to play in the Open. I feel sorry for Matsuyama. He played well except for three bad holes,” said Ichihara.
Mamat, playing four groups ahead of overnight leaders Moore and Lahiri, had an agonizing three-hour wait before playing in the playoff, where he triumphed thanks to a tricky 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“I told Lam before the playoff that no matter what, one of us has to win the playoff and I was glad I did,” said Mamat. “It is remarkable to make my third appearance in the Open.”
International Final Qualifying (IFQ) events were introduced in 2004 and are held on five continents to give more players from around the world the chance to gain direct entry into golf's oldest championship. Qualifiers already have been held in South Africa and Australia this year, and after future qualifiers are set for May 21 at Gleneagles Golf & Country Club in Dallas, Texas; and June 25 at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England.